You Don’t Need to Worry About Yellowstone (or Any Other Supervolcano)
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You Don’t Need to Worry About Yellowstone (or Any Other Supervolcano)

Thanks to Brilliant for supporting this whole
week of SciShow! Go to to learn more. [ ♪INTRO ] You’ve probably heard of supervolcanoes. They’re like normal volcanoes, except … you
know … more volcano. You’ve probably also heard that some of
them — like Yellowstone — are ticking time bombs ready to go off at any moment and
wreak havoc on civilization as we know it. This idea pops up in lots of scary news headlines
and thrilling action movies, and let’s be honest, with the word “super” in the name,
it’s just a matter of time before the Avengers have to fight one somehow. And yet, despite all the hype, the one group
of people who aren’t particularly worried about these volcanoes are the scientists who
study them. The truth is that supervolcanoes are real
and they can cause unbelievable devastation, but they’re not really something we have
to worry about. One of the tools geologists use for measuring
volcanic eruptions is the awesomely-named Volcanic Explosivity Index. This is a scale that categorizes volcanoes
by how much tephra they spew out — tephra being the solid rock in the eruption, from
big volcanic bombs to very fine ash. Like the earthquake Richter scale, the magnitudes
are logarithmic, so every step up in number represents a ten-fold increase in volume of
erupted rock. The 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens — which
was the most destructive volcanic event in the history of the United States — was a
5 on the VEI scale because it released around 1.3 cubic kilometers of tephra. On the other hand, the eruptions of Kilauea
in Hawai’i tend to have a VEI magnitude of 0. This is because while the volcano produces
a lot of semifluid rock, or lava, it doesn’t spit up a lot of solid stuff. That’s not to say that Kilauea isn’t dangerous,
it’s just isn’t very explosive. The highest an eruption can score on the explosivity
index is magnitude 8. It’s reserved for volcanoes that release
at least 1000 cubic kilometers of tephra in a single eruption. That’s 1 trillion cubic meters of rock and
ash — enough to fill 4 million olympic-sized swimming pools. These have sometimes been called super-eruptions,
so the volcanoes that can produce them have come to be called supervolcanoes, though the
term initially came from pop culture, not the scientific literature. Supervolcanoes aren’t common, but there
are several around today. If you go visit one, though, don’t expect
to see a tall ominous mountain. Instead, look for an enormous pit. You see, after a volcano erupts, the ground
will sometimes collapse into the now-empty magma chamber. This creates a bowl-shaped depression called
a caldera. And supervolcano calderas are so big they’re
almost hard to spot. A visitor to beautiful Lake Toba on the island
of Sumatra might not even realize that the 100-kilometer-long lake is actually a flooded
caldera. It was created in the aftermath of a super-eruption
that occurred around 74,000 years ago. Of course, perhaps the most famous supervolcano
in the world sits beneath Yellowstone National Park in northwest Wyoming. A large section of the park is taken up by
the Yellowstone caldera, which is roughly 72 kilometers long and 48 kilometers wide. Deep below the park, the magma chambers of
the supervolcano are still very much active, and it shows on the surface. Yellowstone is famous for its hot springs,
geysers, and other hydrothermal features which are created when water is superheated underground
by the volcano’s magma. But while the volcano may still be hot, the
last time it actually super-erupted was around 640,000 years ago. Humans as a species didn’t even exist then,
and we wouldn’t for another 300,000 years or so. Geologists can track ancient volcanic eruptions
by studying the petrified layers of ash or lava they leave behind. The rock record of the United States holds
evidence of 3 major Yellowstone eruptions, 2 of which were super-eruptions. The first one occurred 2.1 million years ago,
and was one of the largest known volcanic eruptions in history, covering more than half
of the United States in an estimated 2,450 cubic kilometers of tephra. The more recent Yellowstone super-eruption
of 640,000 years ago was quite a bit smaller, producing about 1,000 cubic kilometers of
material. It’s the one that created the caldera you
can go visit today. And worldwide, the most recent known super-eruption
was that of Taupō in New Zealand which exploded a mere 27,000 years ago. Super-eruptions may be devastating, but they’re
not frequent. Based on past eruptions, geologists have estimated
they occur every 17,000 to 45,000 years, or so. But those numbers are just an average, not
a prediction. Volcanoes don’t operate on precise cycles. That’s just not how they work. The forces that lead to an eruption don’t
build at a constant rate. So there isn’t a volcano on Earth that’s
“overdue” for an eruption of any kind, let alone a super-eruption. And while that lack of clock-like activity
means we can’t predict exactly when a supervolcano will erupt, if Yellowstone was about to, volcanologists
would know because it’s the best-studied supervolcano around. It’s what’s called a hotspot volcano. These happen when a particularly hot region
of the Earth’s mantle melts a lot of nearby rock into magma, which then rises toward the
surface. Over the last several million years, the North
American continental plate has been sliding slowly to the west, while the mantle hotspot
has stayed relatively still. This has created a line of volcanoes stretching
from the west coast of North America to Yellowstone’s current home in Wyoming. In the future, as the crust continues to move,
Yellowstone will be pulled away from the hotspot, and perhaps a new volcanic center will form
farther to the east. But for the time being, Yellowstone is still
very much an active volcano. It’s fueled by a pair of enormous underground
magma chambers, the size of which we only came to appreciate in 2015 when a study explored
Yellowstone’s nether regions using a technique called seismic tomography. It’s like a CT-scan, except using earthquake
tremors instead of X-rays. Earthquakes create seismic waves, and because
these waves travel differently through different materials — such as molten rock versus cooler
solid rock — scientists can examine earthquake data to image what’s going on underground. The study was the first to visualize both
partially-molten magma chambers beneath Yellowstone, together comprising more than 50,000 cubic
kilometers in volume. Now, a magma chamber isn’t just a big tub
of glowing goo. It’s a region of hot crust where some of
the pore space between the rock is taken up by molten magma. In these particular magma chambers, the researchers
estimated that between 5 and 15% of the rock is liquidy. And these magma chambers are the main sources
of Yellowstone’s volcanic activity — activity which, by the way, includes a lot more than
just the occasional super-eruption. Over the last several hundred thousand years,
Yellowstone has produced around 80 non-explosive eruptions of lava, the last one occurring
around 70,000 years ago. And even more common than that are steam explosions. At least 26 have happened during the 126 years
that scientists have been monitoring the region. Super-eruptions, by comparison, are extremely
rare, in part because it takes exceptional circumstances to set them off. Standard volcanoes tend to blow because magma
flows into the volcano’s interior, increasing the pressure like air flowing into a balloon
until it pops. But this mechanism isn’t likely to cause
a super-eruption, since the magma chamb ers of supervolcanoes tend to be larger and have
hotter, more flexible walls. As new magma flows in, the chambers can simply
expand. So two 2014 studies concluded that super-eruptions
are instead caused by a high level of magma buoyancy. See, magma is hotter and less dense than solid
rock, so buried magma naturally tends to rise if it can. Imagine you’ve forced an inflated beach
ball underwater in a pool. The air is much less dense than the water,
so if you let the ball go, it launches quickly up and through the surface. Using computer models and laboratory simulations,
the two studies concluded that super-eruptions happen much the same way. Once enough magma builds up, the crust can’t
hold it in any more, and it erupts. And geologists don’t think this is likely
to happen anytime soon. For one thing, magma chambers typically need
to be at least 50% molten before they can erupt, and as I mentioned, Yellowstone’s
are 15% molten at best. Besides, if a super-eruption were about to
happen, the changing underground conditions would create noticable changes on the surface
as well. Sure, it’s tempting to read about a big
earthquake or the changing geyser patterns at Yellowstone and wonder if the end is nigh,
but it’s important to remember that that kind of thing is part of the volcano’s normal
activity. Yellowstone experiences between 1,000 and
3,000 earthquakes each year, most of which are too small for people to notice. Also, those geysers have always been dynamic
features. And the ground continually rises and falls
as things underneath shift about. So all of that seemingly dramatic activity
isn’t a sign of impending doom … it’s a Tuesday. If a super-eruption were building, earthquakes
would be far more frequent, more intense, and more concentrated in particular areas. And we would see similar striking changes
to patterns of geyser activity and ground movement. There may even be chemical clues of an impending
major eruption in Yellowstone or other supervolcanoes. A 2018 study examined the history of major
volcanic eruptions in the Phlegraean Fields of Italy, and characterized how the composition
of magma changed as eruptions approached. Based on that, they concluded that the region
is beginning to build to its next major eruption… but that it will probably be tens of thousands
of years before it actually blows. And across the board, volcanologists say we’ll
get years or decades if not centuries of warning before a supervolcano erupts. Still, they’re keeping an eye on them just
in case. For example, the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory
monitors geologic activity all across the park. So you can rest assured that if anything changes,
we’ll know about it. Right now, the United States Geological Survey
says that the chances of a Yellowstone super-eruption happening in the next few thousand years are
quote “exceedingly small.” In fact, it’s not even a sure thing that
Yellowstone will ever have another super-eruption. Thanks to the movement of the crust, the Yellowstone
caldera is already slightly to the northeast of the major magma chamber beneath it. Yellowstone might simply be dragged away from
its heat source before it gets the chance to blow its top again. So there’s really no reason to lose sleep
worrying about a super-eruption. But, just for imagination’s sake … what
would happen if one of them did go off, say, tomorrow? Well, the eruption could have impacts all
over the globe. The region nearest to the supervolcano would
experience the absolute worst versions of the standard volcano arsenal, including lava
flows, pyroclastic clouds, earthquakes, toxic gases, and more. If Yellowstone went off, for instance, it’s
unlikely anyone in the park would survive. Meanwhile, most of the rest of the United
States would have to worry about ash. Here in Missoula, almost a third of a meter
of volcanic ash could rain down, and even places like Orlando and DC could receive a
few millimeters of the stuff. Those tiny particles of rock and volcanic
glass can clog up engines, damage lungs, and even collapse the roofs of buildings if enough
falls. So a Yellowstone super-eruption would cause
medical, economic, and structural chaos across the country. And, wherever in the world it happened, a
super-eruption would almost certainly mess with global climate. The eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815 pumped
so much volcanic ash and gas into the atmosphere that global temperatures dropped about 3 °C
the following year. And it only ranked a 7 on the VEI scale. A super-eruption might do the same thing on
a larger scale, impacting just about every corner of the globe. But, though there’d be some havoc, it wouldn’t
be the end of the world. None of Yellowstone’s previous eruptions
are linked to major extinction events. Neither are the eruptions of any other supervolcanoes,
for that matter. We might fear for our own safety because for
a long time, scientists have thought the Toba super-eruption 74,000 years ago caused a decline
in human populations. But even that has been called into question
by more recent archeological data. Regardless, all of this really isn’t something
we need to worry about today. I can’t stress this enough: volcanologists
say there’s no reason to think any supervolcano is going off anytime soon. Still, researchers will continue to monitor
and collect data on supervolcanoes Because, someday in the future — in several
thousand years, maybe — Yellowstone or another supervolcano will start stirring, and future
humans will be really glad we spent all this time studying supervolcanoes when it does. Until then, we can leave the doomsday stories
to Hollywood. In order to understand and predict volcanic
eruptions, volcanologists need serious math chops to understand their data. If you want to brush up on your own math skills, has a bunch of math-related courses to cultivate your abilities. Not to mention science, engineering, and computer
science! Their math courses cover everything from practical
applications to the theory of numbers. And of course there’s one on statistics,
which every researcher needs — and it’s great for the rest of us, too. Every course is designed to be hands-on, with
interactive quizzes and guided problems. Courses are available offline via Brilliant’s
mobile apps, so even if your train goes into a tunnel, you can keep learning without being
interrupted. The first 200 people to sign up at
will get 20% off the annual Premium subscription. And by checking it out, you’ll be supporting
SciShow, too! [ ♪OUTRO ]


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  • affandi muhammad

    Tak perlu risau kerana ianya belum berlaku….bila ia berlaku kita tidak ada apa lagi yang hendak dirisaukan kerana kamu dan aku dah matiiii

  • David Lee

    Be very concerned. All humans will be in jeopardy. Sun will be blocked by smoke. Smokers might quit .hacking on the atmosphere

  • Kim Miranda

    Aahhh…the all's normal , nothing going on speech from paid lackeys to keep the minions making money for the powdered wigs…hahaha… regardless that in the last several weeks activity had gone thru the roof… shake patterns, gassing, increase of dead/ dying vegetation, dead squirrels, serious magma rise, and faults ripping open (including the one at Yellowstone that destroyed a road that they only listed as closed for maintenance )
    Yes people can become irrational panic machines.. the point is to move on with life but have a game plan.. be prepared for any unusual event… And… stop sucking up the white wash as factual… do your own homework and see it for what it is… not the rosey cartoon picture the stringed up string pullers paint…
    And trolls keep your unclean mouths shut in Yahushua .

  • vkorchnoifan

    I have visited Mount or Lake Tuba in Sumatra, Indonesia. For about 3 miles you travel by road to a slope that goes gently up. Then you see at the edge you'll see the lake. I traveled down you can visit the natives on an island in the middle of the lake. Lake Tube is about 6 or 7 miles square. I was tole that the northern part of the lake was active. With steam and sulfur dioxide. The area was 10 yards square. But on the edge of this super volcano, you can imagine the whole lake area blew up, spewing thousand of tons of ash in the atmosphere. Quite a sight.

  • Jacque Jac

    You know, I wasn't really worried until I saw this at the top of my recommendations:
    "Times scientists radically misunderstood the world" followed lovingly by,
    "Deadliest substances on Earth".


    So I'm supposed to believe someone who has been on this planet for how long??? And you could spend a LIFETIME researching one SUBJECT and still not be an EXPERT in your field. You could ACTUALLY not have a clue but because you've done it your whole life, YOU expect to know it ALL. Good luck with that folks. GOD BLESS!!!

  • Javey Jenkins

    "Never mind the man behind the curtain, for I am the great and powerful Oz." These are the same people who said that I would never have to worry about a pole shift in my lifetime. I have watched the magnetic north pole move from Hudson bay toward Russia since the 90s. That was something I was told would never happen in my lifetime too. By the time your children start to have children, the magnetic north pole will be in Siberia. Now carry on and worry not, for experts have spoken. ;p

  • X-Plane Captain 4609

    Well the latest non-supereruption from a supervolcano was in 1914 when a Japanese supervolcano erupted (I forgot its name, but it’s a supervolcano!), that eruption alone was enough to let the Japanese know this volcano is NOT normal, so a bit more info 😉

  • Charlie Smith

    This woman has an insufferable voice, and judging by the hardware in her nose, something tells me she doesn't know what she is talking about.

  • Charles Long

    How about fracking the rock drilling for oil and gas all around Yellowstone? Then it would release the pressure slowly over many years, and avoid one super-eruption.

  • Tomas Inguanzo

    Right I'm not worrying about Yellowstone I'm more worried about China Lake there's a bigger volcano than Yellowstone

  • Humanity Sucks

    What I heard here is… "You don't need to worry about super-eruptions because everyone will be dead before it happens, and if we aren't, there would be years of warning, and precious little you could actually do about it."

  • mojo 410 Captain Caveman

    Nope .. explain all the earthquakes are happening…. now. You know a swarm of earthquakes…. Around the park… ..

  • eric duffy

    One day a rift will open up in the earth's crust directly under yellowstone lake. Then water will flow down to meet magma. It will have explosive effects

  • teppolundgren

    Come on. If Yellowstone was about to blow, there'd be nothing anyone could do about it. And the last thing the authorities would want to do,
    would be to cause mass panic. So I think they'd keep their mouths shut and let people die, because they would die anyway.
    I'm 42, and I fully expect to witness a supervolcanic eruption in my lifetime.

  • Ally White

    The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory was founded in 2001… That's less than 20 years ago… The Titanic was supposed to be unsinkable…
    If you think we have enough data to make realistic safety predictions at this point, you're naive.

  • Marie Martinez

    Scientists can always “predict” whats going to happen, But The times have come, and GOD IS COMING!!! Amen 🙏🏻 please repent now ppl, this will happen, remember, Do you really think the government or scientists are really going to tell ppl when it’ll rip??? Thats when they’ll start evacuation for “no reason” but, They won’t tell us, ?Why? so they won’t start some type of panic or riot. May God be with you 🙏🏻 GOD time is here and he is coming!

  • Robert Jones

    I thought her talk was quite interestING but found that the tats on her arms & the nose piercing quite distracting if I watched the video

  • vntage water

    the longer I watch this video, the less comfortable I am and the more i worry. “you don’t need to worry, we could have decades or centuries, but scientists are still watching just incase this is the decade” like wtf lady

  • jo Mcu

    What if Yellowstone destroyed dinosaurs not asteroid the asteroid would’ve ended life in earth forever because water would be rock so a volcano destroyed dinosaurs not asteroid

  • Rick Blain

    BTW, the "hot spot" is what is creating Hawaii! It's why Kilauea has begun to 'fizzle out" on the surface. It's NOW 'squooshing' out offshore, UNDER THE WATER, and is now creating the NEXT HAWAIIAN ISLAND!!! (Put a bid in now on some beachfront property, and your great-grandkids will love you for it!!!) Look at a map of the Pacific, look at the way the Hawaiian islands for a bit of a curve. And if you follow that curve around…..MIDWAY ISLAND! Midway used to be HAWAII!

  • Munthassem Khan

  • IllBeYour Huckleberry

    Did she play a role in the big bang theory? The fact that she looks like that likely means this is just entertainment. Actually she is attractive in a really smart scientist sort of way. They are keeping an eye on them via satalites as they stay safe in their tax payer built and supplied bunkers. There are ways to mitigate these sorts of things but all that tax money was misappropriated into building those bunkers.

  • Natalie Rose

    "We can leave the doomsday stories to Hollywood…"🤔
    …y'all might wanna get a time machine and show this to SciShow in 2012.

    It'd be good to own up to the fact that SciShow's used the supervolcano doomsday tone in the past. So, a lot of those who've heard about Yellowstone being a scary big deal learned that from SciShow. Just my two cents. Still this channel, though! ❤

  • ShroomZed

    Love the conspiratorial, fear-mongering comment section filled with people who apparently have more knowledge of geology and volcanology than the actual scientists.

  • autoyota

    U have to factor in the corruption of the government. The USGS is controlled by politics and $. They constantly report false and misleading info! If they admitted that it is a risk,it could create panic and exodus of the area. Thus a huge economic loss. They are very right though. There is no need to worry because when it blows, it will probably be a global catastrophe and will threaten all civilization. Don't worry about things we have no control of!

  • josh b

    This woman is so wrong in her tongue tent scientist are worried about Yellowstone they have been for a while now. In fact just in the past year along the ring of fire there's been a little seismic activity going on setting off a chain of volcanoes one right at for another and it is heading in the line of Yellowstone Yellowstone has also been having more eruptions and more smoke and their grounds have been heating up I even watched a live thing many animals wolves Bisons deer all kinds of animals not fighting but hurting up and leaving Yellowstone. On top of that coming out of caves there was a black smoke that's a sign of melting Rock close to the surface and just five months ago a crack opened up in Yellowstone pretty good sized one 2. In fact they're saying the one earthquake or a Titanic shift considered off scientists are watching it so I don't know why you're making. Video saying not to worry about it when scientists are pretty much saying you should be worried about it right now. Do a little bit of research

  • Luis Enrique Rangel Buitimea

    Con las cosas que han pasado estas semsnas deberían actualizar información sobre este pequeño podcast, perdón su no me comunique en inglés pero ya saben como es esto

  • Jeff Jefferson

    Dont believe her. Many government properties, expierments, and buisnnesses are moving away from the west coast and going to other places. Even if im wrong you should still be prepared.

  • Mane Manee

    Just imagine Mother Nature just says f us and start erupting every volcano starting every tornado and hurricane also with earthquake

  • Travis Bohanan

    Live in Wyoming and we hear about Yellowstone all time, even since 96’ when I moved here. Out of state people are always like omg how can you live so close to this thing and feel safe. My response was always, what does it matter? You’re gonna die too. Just after me, mine will be quick, maybe yours not so much.

  • John Nicodemus

    They don't think but the scary version is they don't know. Yellowstone isn't the only SV in the United States. There's one in New Mexico and the Long Valley Caldera in California.
    Of the known 6-7 SV's around the world, America has the distinction of being home to 3, we know about. And guess what?, they are all active.
    What scientists know about volcanoes as fact would fit in a sewing thimble. Mt. Saint Helen's was largely thought to be extinct until it's 1980 3 month build up and eruption.
    With Yellowstone's second magma chamber scientist only found in 2015 and a volume of 50,000 CKm, at least, keeping eye on an active volcano that large is only prudent.
    But telling people it could never happen in our life time is wreckless because, say it with me, "they don't know empirically", it's merely a calculated guess. What could possibly go wrong?

  • Lloyd Hawkins

    Says a science but ahhhh don't worry about volcanoes!! He's been smoking too much volcano Ash. You should always worry cause nobody can predict when it will erupt not even Sci-Nut!!!

  • Ghost Dog

    2.1 million years ago lol. If you trace back Biblically we have been here for around 26 thousand years. Also 1 thousand years to us is a day to the Lord (2 Peter 3:8) So when it tells you the Lord created the earth in 6 days and He rested on the 7th day, that was a passing of 7 thousand years. These are the same morons that will tell you Aliens are billions of years this and that, when its really demonic beings that are the offspring of the nephilim. The same beings which the "powers that be" work under and are given advanced technology.

    The same technology that has caused civilizations before us to fall with pictures of their technology/demonology of flying crafts and helicopters dating as far back as the hieroglyphs. Long story short, it was not as far back as you might think, and Yellowstone in general plays a big roll in Bible prophecy and its not far off. Now if you want to say wait, I don't believe in that stuff, it does not matter what you believe because all the signs are here and most have come into fruition in just our generation. The truth of the matter is that your simply not paying attention to whats happening around you, and your to busy teaching nonsense like this instead of facts.

    Signature: Everyone would agree that a coin has 2 sides, but few are those who notice the side angle, bequeathing off the perfect umbra.

  • Haroon Abassi

    damn, this girls audacity and gumption is thicc
    Telling in the upwards of 600,000's of people not to be concerned about a cataclysmic apocalyptic event.

  • MrAustinNick

    I stopped watching videos with her in it in the past because of how she ends sentences.

    She has gotten a lot better. Thats hard work and i want to say congratulations to that. I commend your hard work. :)))

    Im looking forward to watching videos with you more now!

  • merricraven

    So many people are just psyching themselves out about the possibility of a super eruption in our lifetimes. Yeah it could happen, but it still isn’t likely to until after most of us alive now are gone. People really need to make sure they’re getting facts from reliable sources, and remember that even the news will make it seem worse than it is. Even more so are youtubers who don’t use current information or real facts. Trust the scientists.

  • Dedrick Brockington

    It is irresponsible to tell people there is no need to worry about an overdue Supervolcano that could affect the world not only the immediate nation. I think its really shortsighted not to prepare your country for the possibility.

  • black saibot

    Blah blah blah, science is wrong… with each new passing generation, science has to correct itself. New findings. New research. New ideas. New this, new that. We were wrong, we're smarter now. We've got better tech to prove it. Etc. etc. etc. I'll take this with a grain of salt.

  • Van Rozay

    Doesn't the frequent venting of lava and steam, relieving underground pressure, make Yellowstone LESS likely to blow in a giant eruption?

  • Stacey Singer

    When someone tells me not to worry about something, I tend to worry, and do research. If you did this as well you would probably say "Don't worry about the USGS altering depth and location of some Earthquakes very close to the newly appearing fault line the magically appeared near a mysterious Military Base." Your lies are too see thru to those here seeking truth, it resonates when it's REAL. Don't worry about the West Coast being devastated by the mantle plume that's about to breach the surface, you will magically survive inhaling the microscopic glass shards that enter your lungs shredding them to pieces." We are awake now!

  • Yellowstone Supervolcano

    Yeah I’m finna explode just to show you that it isn’t just “magma build up” I’m a nice guy but now I’m going to blow tomorrow at 12:37 P.M.

  • Five Lakes YJ

    OK, at best weather forecasts can be accurate from a few hours to a couple of days. I've been unable to find that any eruption was accurately forecast more than two days before the eruption. More importantly, even with all the technology, no danger signals have been observed more than a few weeks prior to an eruption. Nature is scary and completely unpredictable. Planet Earth seems to be now sick and tired of human interference. Planet Earth may be hiding a secret event to rid itself of humans to ensure it's survival. As George Carlin said (perhaps prophetically), The Earth is fine. People are f****d.

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